Vijay Chauthaiwale, a US-trained molecular biologist, quit his job as vice-president (discovery research) at Ahmedabad’s Torrent Pharmaceuticals to take over the Overseas Friends, a front organisation that networks with the vast Indian diaspora.
Chauthaiwale, who speaks Marathi and hails from Nagpur, has his roots in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which he had once accused in a Marathi weekly of having become a “static organisation”.
He was part of an elite group of strategists and thinkers who pencilled and executed Modi’s Lok Sabha poll campaign.
Chauthaiwale has been working for Modi ever since the then Gujarat chief minister created a vast cyberspace for himself, built an image as a “modern”, pro-reforms and industry-friendly politician and reached out to hospitable overseas locations.
The buzz in Delhi was that Modi wanted Chauthaiwale as his media adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Chauthaiwale laughed off the rumour, saying: “I don’t know the first thing about the Delhi media.”
Chauthaiwale’s predecessor in the Overseas Friends, Vijay Jolly, is a former Delhi MLA who had used his position to befriend the cream of Chanakyapuri, home to the capital’s embassies and high commissions.
Increasingly, many within the BJP had come to feel that the affable Jolly might be using his contacts to enlarge his social circle more than spreading the party’s and Modi’s viewpoints.
Under Jolly, the Overseas Friends had been reduced to a host for social events on Indian festivals. The spadework for Modi’s global outreach was done by BJP general secretary Ram Madhav — even when he was a Sangh whole-timer —and by individuals like Chauthaiwale and Manoj Ladwa, a London-based solicitor.
Their task was to redeem Modi’s credentials after the 2002 riots and enhance his acceptability as a potential Prime Minister.
Shah has handed Dinesh Sharma overall charge of the party membership campaign, launched by Modi on Saturday amid fanfare.
Sharma is the Lucknow mayor and earned Shah’s confidence when he was camping in Uttar Pradesh before the Lok Sabha elections.
- The Telegraph, Calcutta